Use of this form of solar energy has the potential of relieving the steady drain on the world’s sources of non-renewable fossil fuel, on which most of the world’s citizens and enterprises are heavily dependent. Solar power does not pollute, nor is it limited to any one part of the world, although some areas are better suited to use it than others are. The volatile political situation in many of the fossil-fuel producing countries makes this ready access to a different source of fuel a bright and welcomed spot on the world’s ecological, economic, and political and energy fronts.
In these photovoltaic modules, or solar panels, light energy is converted directly to electrical energy. Nothing has to be burned to make heat to drive a generator. Solar electric power can go directly to the power grid, which can then be used to add to the energy available to be consumed just as fossil fuel contributes to the energy needs powering the modern world. Fossil fuel electrical generation requires boilers, turbines and generators, not to mention the devices required to dig, pump and transport the coal or oil. All the machinery involved in this process is expensive and highly complicated to run and maintain. Solar panels have none of these problems. All you need is sun, solar panels, space to put them and a way to store the electricity generated for later use.
Early on the expense of both the panels and of the batteries used to store electricity deterred all but those who either lived too far from the power grid, who needed electricity where there was no grid at all in developing nations or unmanned or specialized situations such as highway signs or even space stations. The graceful wings of the International Space Station are solar panels. In the early days the cost of producing a solar panel was about $100 US per watt. Consider in comparison that the modern home requires close to 1000 kilowatt hours per month or about 33.33 kilowatt hours per day. Without going into a lot a math it was safe to say that the cost of using solar panels was “out of this world.”
Solar panels now cost less than $5.00 US per watt and that cost is dropping rapidly. Electric power companies faced with the ever- increasing cost of building and maintaining fossil fuel plants are seeing solar energy not only as a basic solution to the energy problem, but also one that relieves the companies of the cost of building additional plants.
Businesses and even individuals are seeing the advantage of putting solar power arrays on the roofs of factories and homes. Electric power companies are offering to buy excess power produced by the existing solar energy production, making the cost of solar power far less since the idea of investing in batteries for storage of surplus solar power became unnecessary. Solar panel-equipped businesses and homes can enjoy watching their electric meters slow to a crawl or even run backwards as they contribute power to the grid. This can allow power companies to idle expensive power plants, running them only at night and saving wear, tear and the use of costly fossil fuels. Companies are even bringing to market roofing shingles that double as solar panels. The future of solar panels is bright!